The team of Rick Doerr, Brad Kendell and Hugh Freund won the gold medal in the Sonar class at the 2016 Para World Sailing Championship Saturday in the waters off Medemblik, Netherlands, less than four months ahead of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Doerr, Kendell and Freund were propelled to the top step of the podium by consistency throughout the 10 races at worlds. Only once did they place outside the top five, a 10th-place finish in the fifth race that was meaningless because the worst result was discarded. Of the nine races that counted toward USA 1’s total of 26 points, two were first-place finishes. The also had a pair each of second- and third-place results.
They set sail in the final race Saturday knowing they needed stay no worse than two places behind John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas of Great Britain and within three of the Australia 1 boat of Colin Harrison, Jonathan Harris and Russell Boaden to secure the gold. They did just that, as the British boat finished first in the final race and the U.S. entry crossed the line in third. That left the British team one point shy of the U.S. total, placing second with 27 points. Australia 1 finished second Saturday to give them 28 points, good enough to win the bronze.
The head of the class for the United States since the London 2012 Games, they have garnered medals at some of the world’s most competitive adaptive sailing events. In the past seven years the trio has won five medals at the world cup event in Miami, and in 2015 they received the Sunbrella Golden Torch Award, presented to the top-performing boat at the Miami event. It marked the first time Paralympic-class athletes received the award in the regatta’s 26-year history.
They won a bronze medal one month ago at the world cup race in Hyeres, France, where they also earned their starting spot in Rio. A veteran of 16 years on the national team and the 2007 world champion in the Sonar class, Doerr will compete at the Paralympics for the second time after making his debut at the Beijing 2008 Games. Freund and Kendell will make their Paralympic debut.